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Jessica Ireju: Dear Cocoa, You Are The Best Parts of Me

Jessica Ireju

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I reconnected with a much younger cousin of mine last month. The last time I saw her, she was about 2 years old. Our chats on WhatsApp made me feel like I was having conversations with a younger version of me, just a more confident version of the teenage me who’s chasing her dreams.

The similarities between us is uncanny; from being bookworms, to our shared passion for writing. The chat session ended with her pronouncing me ‘cool’. Reading her advice on having a better skincare regimen, I realised I had missed watching her grow into this awesome woman. I don’t want to miss those moments with my future niece. I don’t know if it’s the realization that I’m getting older or the fact that I want to be a cool aunty (since I wasn’t ‘cool’ as a teenager) but I want my niece, Cocoa, (even though she isn’t here yet) to have all the opportunities I didn’t have. I can’t go back in time and tell the younger version of myself what to do but I can live a legacy for the next generation of women.

So, I wrote her a letter telling her my mistakes, my hopes and dreams, not just for her, but for the women coming behind her.

***

Dear Cocoa,

You are more than height and hips, clothes and curves. You are the father’s daughter – a title you should wear proudly before the world tries to tell you who you should be. Always be unapologetically female because you’re an elegant god refined with grace, set in compassion with a laughter that rings from the deep within.

You see your dreams, the wanderlust in your eyes, the belief that there’s good in the world – don’t lose it. Don’t ever shrink to fit in spaces, embrace your flaws, scars and imperfections. Don’t waste your time and effort on the things you’re not good at, whether it’s cooking or solving math problems. Cultivate your strength, whatever that is: writing or working a budget, hone those skills! Create your own lanes, even when it’s never been done before. Don’t worry about being weird, worry about fulfilling purpose.

If, at any time, you’re unfulfilled or unsatisfied in your career, move on. Never sacrifice purpose for a paycheck, title or the hype of writing entrepreneur on your Instagram bio! The most important thing you should leave a job or business with is not money but relationships. Concerning exits, close those doors quietly, even when you’re no longer welcome in those rooms.

The presence or absence of a thing in your life should never validate you, even if it’s a career, money or a title. No human being should be saddled with the responsibility of making you happy – that’s too much power to put in someone’s hands. Even a life partner shouldn’t have that burden. Joy doesn’t come with the things you have or don’t have. The evidence of faith is not provision but trust in God. You will always have something you want in life but that desire should never configure your joy level.

I pray you have the gift of friendships. Genuine friendships will push you deeper into purpose, you’ll have your own personal hype squad and people cheering in whatever arenas you decide to perform.

Cocoa, go hard for your friends but when it’s time to end those friendships, kiss them goodbye. I hope you will enjoy life-long friendships like your mother and I, but some friendships are in seasons. Never speak ill or share secrets about a person even when you’re no longer friends and you think they hurt you. Honour those friendships. Let me tell you this truth: sometimes you’re the wrong party in a conflict. Never be ashamed to apologise, the relationship may never be restored but it will teach you how to be a better friend.

Please, don’t let religion keep you away from God. You will hear of thieving pastors, spiritual leaders who will let you down with their actions and church members who gossip about the colour of your hair extensions. But always remember that your faith is a relationship between you and God, think of it like slow dancing with a partner. You should always follow His lead, the only view you should have is His. I hope you don’t inherit my horrible dancing skills. Just like me when I’m dancing with a partner, you’ll step on God’s toes a few times in trying to learn this dance. But He will steer you right back to the rhythm of your purpose; He’s very patient. The only person you are accountable to is Jesus – not your fears or the opinions of others. Live your life. You should never treat people how they treat you, but how God treats you. On the subject of forgiveness, always forgive, it will rid you of toxic emotions and the bitter desire for revenge. When people fail you – as they sure will, extend the grace you have received to them.

Life is in seasons – enjoy it. No season is perfect but it’s always teaching you something. You’ll hear me say this a lot as you grow – it’s one of my favourite sayings but I want to write it here for you as a reminder in silent seasons: “just because the ground isn’t moving doesn’t mean the seed isn’t growing”.

Darling Cocoa, start before you’re ready. Don’t be like your favourite aunty (there’s no competition) who it took years for her to write, start the business and share with an audience because she was afraid. Everytime you leave your comfort zone, you will discover a piece of your purpose but more importantly, it will help others live out theirs. Do not be afraid to fail, you come from a long line of women who have survived unexpected curves in life. From your great grand mother who raised 7 children alone after the civil war ended and left her a widow, your grand mother who’s learned to live again after losses, aunties who have survived abusive relationships and divorces. They never lost their purpose, you won’t either. No matter what life throws at you, always remember that I’ve got you. If you do fail when I’m not there to hold your hand, remember you’re not failing, you are living, writing chapters in the story of your life.

Always speak up for yourself and for others. It is important to stand up for what you believe in – even when you are unjustly fired from a job, your friend is raped or a stranger is killed during election violence. Silence is agreement, a shaky voice in court is better than no testimony.

I hope that you’re the extension of the best parts of me but most importantly, I want you to be the best version of you on earth. I love you already and I can’t wait to meet you.

Your Favourite Aunty,
Ireju.

P.S: A woman doesn’t have to choose to be one thing! That’s the fun part. Dressing up for each role – in stilletos or sneakers, as a mother or mogul – always be you, no matter the hat you’re wearing that day.

Jessica Ireju is a writer weaving words, sharing stories and creating conversations on life, love and faith. She has a degree in Archaeology and Tourism from the university of Nigeria, Nsukka.These days she's telling a different story helping women look their best, save money and funding dreams @therestylebank. She loves Jesus, Journals and Johnny Drille's music. On the days when she's not having conversations with herself, she can be found on instagram @jessicaireju.

6 Comments

  1. Adaugo Okafor

    June 18, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    This is beautiful, every girl/woman needs to read this!

    • Jessica Ireju

      June 19, 2020 at 4:30 am

      I’m glad you did read it, Adaugo. Thank you !

    • Victor David

      July 1, 2020 at 12:46 pm

      Wowww..this is amazing

  2. Halima Emelis

    July 1, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    I’m glad I read this

  3. Chidinma

    August 2, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Ireju, you write so beautifully. Ah,the way I love to read from you ba. Loved every single line of this article. And the coloured hair extension part got me. Thank you for writing.

  4. Chidinma

    August 2, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    Ireju, you write so beautifully. Ah,the way I love to read from you ba. And the coloured hair extension part got me. Thank you for writing👏

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